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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vedānta Deśika: Dharma is not perceivable by normal human beings

Vedānta Deśika (Seśvaramīmāṃsā ad 1.1.4) then confutes the above mentioned thesis that dharma can be seized through direct perception. This confutation entails the necessity of Sacred Texts for human beings. However, Vedānta Deśika is careful enough not to rule out the possibility for God to see dharma, since he always stresses the fact that this is impossible "for people like us" (asmadādi). In this way, he skilfully harmonizes Mīmāṃsā and theism. The following is an excerpts of his argument:

That he (Jaimini) refutes by the words “A contact with something existing” and the following ones of the sūtra. In this regard, this is the succession of the connection [of the sūtras]: In regard to dharma “perception is not a condition [for knowing it]”. Why? “Because it seizes existing [objects]”, that is, because it grasps present (vartamāna) objects. And why is it so? To this doubt he replies… What indeed [is perception]? The usage (prayoga) of the sense faculties. That must be direct perception. Hence, how can there be [direct perception] in regard to dharma? Nor is it a condition. In fact, dharma is found as something which is done at the moment and which has been done, according to its fruit. Hence, direct perception could grasp it? By no means! If indeed the own nature of a substance or [a quality or an action] is seen (maybe: could be seen) through direct perception as “dharma” in the form “this is dharma”, in the same way as one sees “this is a pot”, and if in its regard we could regularly (niyamena) grasp that immediately after this object (artha, that is, dharma) –which has been determined (nirdiṣṭa) as being the instrument to realise a [desired] result– that [result] comes into being, then through direct perception together with repeated instances of seeing we could ascertain “this is the instrument to realise something good”. [But], since the [desired] result consisting in heaven etc. cannot now be present, because of the fact that it will occur in another body, it cannot be grasped that [dharma] is the instrument to realise it. Nor does the action last until the [desired] result is experienced. The unseen potency (apūrva) which is realised by the action, though it lasts [longer], is not perceivable by people like us. [Else, one could propose that] it (the instrument to realise the desired result), in fact, consists in obliging (anugraha) the Deities. [But,] indeed, the desire (abhiprāya) of one cannot reach perceivability by another (hence, the Deities' intention cannot be directly perceivable by us). Hence, since at the level of the result there is no act (karman) and at the level f the act there is no result, it is impossible for us to grasp the relation of thing to be realised and instrument realising it inhering in both (since we never grasp them together). Hence, the fact that [direct perception] seizes [only] present things can be established (siddh-) as the cause for the fact that direct perception cannot grasp dharma.

Through that also the example concerning the nature of a precious stone is refuted (see above). In fact, the heaviness of a precious stone, even if contemplated thousands of times, is not grasped by the eyes.

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